Left good, right bad

A guest post at Whale Oil initiated an interesting discussion in a right wing blog –  Reclaiming the Left – by a Labour party member. One claim received a lot of attention:

Boiled down to its absolute core, the difference between left and right is this: leftists believe in altruism and the collective, rightists believe that selfishness is morally right.

Leading the argument against this was ‘Alex’ (a different Alex to a Green supporter who comments across different blogs):

Now this sort of shit makes my blood boil.

This equating leftism with “altruism” and rightism with “selfishness” is the heart of the leftist problem in NZ and elsewhere. It gives rise to the leftist ever so annoying sense of moral superiority; and to the anti-democratic attitude held by someone them that anyone opposed to leftism must be inherently “bad”, and therefore there is no obligation to accord to the opposition the basic rights of not interfering with property, not personally abusing people, allowing them the opportunity to express a different opinion.

As a “rightist”, I’m totally against selfishness — whether it be beneficiaries who think themselves entitled to lifelong benefits without even trying to work, or upper income people who think it’s ok to engage in dodgy “tax minimisation” schemes when everyone else has to cop it.

The essential difference is that rightists believe in empowering individuals, individual responsibility as the cornerstone of society, that the state’s power should be limited, and that legislative action should be limited to situations where it is necessary to protect other peoples’ tangible rights or (in exceptional cases) where there is demonstrable evidence that only the State can avoid or mitigate some tangible mischief (as opposed to social engineering).

When and if the leftists in this country actually start to respect the centre-right, acknowledge that their viewpoint is legitimate and reasonable, and that voters are not stupid fools who take up this “dog whistling” (as if leftists never engage in such rubbish) hook, line and sinker, only then will the left finally be in a position to contribute to this democracy.

While the last paragraph ignores the fact that ‘the left’ has and does contribute to our democracy it highlights something I frequently see on left leaning blogs – the claim that those on the right are ignorant and wrong and having the left in power is essential for the good of the country.

More comments on the left versus right theme…


The left is opposed to altruism. Altruism is when you FREELY give something you have to someone else. The left wish to TAKE from those who have and give to those who vote for them. Altruism is a core value of the right and is demonstrated by the sort of charitable giving that you see in America. The left hates this because they don’t believe that the wealthy and successful should get to choose what cause gets their money.


I should actually reword what you have written to:

“Boiled down to its absolute core, the difference between left and right is this: leftists believe in altruism using other peoples money, rarely their own. Rightists believe in a freedom to choose where they spend the fruits of their labour”.


Statistical evidence was recently released about the type of person more likely to donate to charities or do charitable work. Not surprisingly the most likely backed by evidence are politically right leaning people.


As long as the left continues to assert that anyone who does not agree with them is “selfish”, they will continue to be irrelevant.


The left is inclusive of all. The right apparently sees ‘haves’ or racial exclusivity.

I’ve seen it claimed a few times that “the left is inclusive of all”, but it is usually contradicted by those who don’t agree are excluded, whether they are on the right or not.

And in my (extensive) experience on blogs the rightish blogs are more likely to accommodate comment from across the spectrum (this Whale Oil post is an example of that).

Leftish blogs like Red Alert, The Standard, Dim Post seem to be far less tolerant of anyone deemed to be from ‘the other side’. It’s more common for these leftish blogs to actively attack commenters personally and try and exclude comment they take exception to.

I think too much is made of left versus right. It is a not a war that can ever be won. Claiming one side is right and the other wrong is political arrogance and ignorance.

Most people are closer to the centre than to the extreme left or right, and most people have a blend of leftish and rightish views.

Those who see themselves as ‘left’ or ‘right’  seem to hate the concept of centre based views that look at any issue on it’s merits rather than straightjacketed by an ideology based approach.

And like it or not in a democratic country views from across the political spectrum need to be allowed, and all shades of politics needs to accommodated.